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Wednesday, December 19, 2007

The Universal Language


Dear Editor

I am forced to write to correct a misconception some people might have got from reading the article, Why We Hate Steel Band Music published in The Daily Observer. Someone suggested to me that I was promoting classical music as being superior to other types of music, including our own calypso.

Nothing could be further from the truth. A lot of classical music, like a lot of any type of music, is plan rubbish to my ears. The point I was trying to make was simply that one type of music can inform another. A lot of classical music was commissioned by kings and persons of high office. This did not start in Europe. It started in Africa. So if we borrow from classical music we are simply taking back what we started.

Here is a simple example of how music and art carry universal themes. I once heard a provocative, some would even say erotic, rendition of music called Nights in the Garden of Spain by the Spanish composer, Manuel de Falla. Anyone could easily imagine from listening to the music, all of the nocturnal goings on in the garden, even though the composer was known to be a most pious man.

A few years later, I read a poem by Nobel Laureate, Derek Walcott, called Nights in the Garden of Port of Spain. It was the poetry equivalent of The Mighty Sparrow’s Jean and Dinah and the same nocturnal goings on that Manuel de Falla wrote into his classical music.

We are not as different as some of us like to think, we just look, talk and do a few things differently.

Dr. Lester CN Simon


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